I love tower defense games. I can totally understand the sentiment that as a genre, its a little played out though. Right Pedal Studios’ newest title, Ninja Raft ($2.99), has an eye out to avoid some of the most common pitfalls many TD games make. With a focus on active gameplay and an adventurous setting, you aren’t going to be left feeling like you are digging in waiting for things to happen. Your ninjas will need to be agile to keep their floating fortress safe from their ultimate nemesis.
With a playful spin on the popular Pirate vs. Ninja meme, appeal for the game ranges from kids to adults with an easy mode built for small hands as well as a normal mode that provides enough challenge to keep things interesting. What I find strange is a lack of basic story-line to keep things cohesive. I saw that ‘steampunk’ visuals were mentioned in the game’s description, but I don’t see anything that reminds me of steampunk. Maybe I am not as familiar as I should be with what steampunk is, but that kind of threw me off a bit. Once you embark on your first journey, you don’t really get any further plot development. Starting down that river, it looks like it’s just a long haul to the end of the game. Hopefully I will run into a milestone level, but it hasn’t happened for me yet.
Ninja Raft is a boat building tower defense game. Your primary resource when dealing with invading pirates is the 6 ninja you embark with. Ninjas will need to meet or exceed the number of pirates at their landing point in order to successfully dispatch them. If Pirates are left to their own devices, they will start to loot the coins you are trying to transport or even get into your ship and knock out a hitpoint. New square types slowly unlock giving you access to different towers and defenses, but the main gameplay element seems to remain to be ninja management.
This is where Ninja Raft is going to get you hooked. If you like tower defense games but get bored with how passive they can be, you will probably really like how active your ninjas need to be to keep your booty out of pirate hands. Even after a number of tower options have unlocked, I still spend the majority of levels swiping my stealthy minions from aft to bow and starboard to port. Losing your raft to pirates is really a heartbreaking ordeal, especially if you have invested in upgrading weapons. Once you have more than 2 weapons, you have about a 50% chance to pull each one out of wreckage if you do fail a level, so be careful what you spend your coin on.
Being that it comes with an initial price tag, the game sits firmly between free to play and premium. So far I have yet to come across costly items that would necessitate a trip to the IAP, but you will start noticing that upgrades for each item and even the ship itself are not cheap. It’s possible that eventually you may need more currency than you have access to, but it does not feel like that is the case as of yet.
Each fight is only incrementally more difficult and while you may need to go back and farm up some gold, previously cleared levels do occasionally get a bonus loot round spawned on them. If you are feeling low on income, I suggest brushing up on the patterns that can show up in the bonus loot mini-game, it can help you more easily pick up that bonus gold. Each round allows you 10 card flips to reveal a hidden 4 card pattern. I have found that this is a pretty reliable way to get more currency than you need at any given point and they totally take the pressure off deciding on hitting the IAP.
So far, the game just feels slow. I don’t mean while you are fending off pirates who are frantically attempting to steal your gold, but that tower unlocks and game progression just seems sluggish. It takes multiple level clears just to unlock the first 2 types of towers. In addition to this, it doesn’t look like there are any boss monsters to speak of, just wave after wave of pirate boats floatin’ to the ship to unload their scurvy cargo. After clearing many tower unlock levels and seeing multiple difficulty ramps, I started to fail missions.
The first failed mission means you will probably have to invest a lot of grind time just to get back to your failure point, and then even more to beef up your defenses enough to continue to proceed. In a paid game with IAP, I didn’t expect to see this much of time required to rebound after a failed level. The only thing that really changes is how you build your boat and the fact that you will eventually be outnumbered worse and worse by pirates. Changes of scenery, milestone levels [like a boss or something], or even levels that give you less or more ninjas would all go a long way to spruce up the game.
I do look forward to future updates to see what the mysterious ‘heroes’ are, which are currently just a ‘coming soon’ thing in the store. Even as the epic battle rages on between ninjas and pirates, one trip down the river is much like the rest.